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Meriden school board seeks legal advice on Edison takeover

Meriden school board seeks legal advice on Edison takeover

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MERIDEN — Meriden Public Schools has hired a law firm to determine the feasibility of operating Thomas Edison Magnet Middle School.

“We have retained legal counsel and continue to consult with our state delegation on the cost effectiveness and feasibility of Meriden Public Schools becoming the school provider,” School Superintendent Mark Benigni told school board members last week. 

The district has hired Pullman & Comley, one of the state’s largest firms.

Benigni made the announcement during his annual report to the Board of Education. Local school officials had discussed possibly taking the 20-year-old building back for the district’s use, but the announcement was the first time Meriden officials have stated publicly that they were interested in running Edison as a magnet school. 

Area Cooperative Education Services, or ACES, has operated Edison since it opened in 2000 through five-year contract renewals with Meriden Public Schools and the state. Its latest contract is set to expire June 30, which set into motion a study on middle school enrollment, curriculum and costs by Meriden school officials.  

Edison, located on North Broad Street, offers a science and technology curriculum and was recently named a National Magnet School of Distinction. The building currently holds up to 800 students, with 512 students coming from Meriden. Middletown sends 80 students, but is building a new middle school.

Waterbury’s enrollment has increased to about 80 students. Wallingford sends about 12 students, and Berlin, New Britain, Cromwell, North Haven, Wethersfield, Middlefield, Portland, Watertown and Torrington, each send less than five students.  

Meriden Public Schools is working with attorney Stephen Sedor, chair of Pullman & Comley's School Law Practice Group, on magnet school options and state reimbursements, according to Benigni. It is also in talks with state lawmakers who represent Meriden. 

The Board of Education established an ad hoc middle school committee in December to review the contract with ACES and study an anticipated middle-school enrollment bubble.  

ACES officials are aware of Meriden’s plans and although not formally told the district wanted to run Edison as a magnet school, it was implied, a spokeswoman said. The contract stipulates that any party wishing to withdraw from the contract must give the other parties one year notice, meaning there would be no changes this fall. 

“We’ve been a good partner for 20 years,” said ACES Executive Director Thomas Danehy. “The way it is now, Meriden has the upper hand. Meriden is one of our customers. I would like to continue the partnership.” 

The district is continuing to review the state reimbursement rates, but the process has slowed since the COVID-19 pandemic closed all public schools in March. 

“We are still waiting on the state for hard numbers,” said Board of Education President Robert Kosienski. “How it would look can't be addressed until we hear from them.” 

ACES currently charges $13,723 per student for tuition, with the state contributing $8,810 per student and the participating districts paying $4,913.

mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz

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